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Using Yantra to Meditate in Challenging Times

There has never been a better time than now to seek solace in meditation. While the world is in a state of shock since the onset of COVID-19 many individuals are looking for ways to cope with the isolation of being confined in their homes. Being able to gaze at something of beauty is a wonderful way to avoid distraction during meditation. If it is something found in nature it fills us with a state of awe and wonder. It starts by calming your mind and then it stills your body.

In my book, Chasing Marigolds, I describe yantra as ‘ …a geometric design for encouraging mindfulness by focusing the mind. Gazing at a candle or flower is a technique used prior to some meditation practices. The idea is to look at the object without blinking or straining in order to see it more clearly. Yantras represent in the visual field what mantras represent in the aural – a point of focus to stop your mind wandering. As art works to be gazed upon, they range from simple to elaborate. Circular yantras are often called mandalas.

Most of the hotel lobbies we entered in India were decorated using artistic yantras of flower petals and candles floating in bowls of water. Fascinating creations of symmetry can be seen everywhere in India if you look closely. The construction of Hindu temples was based upon yantra and when you look at modern architecture in Indian cities you can see finer details of that same symmetry. The buildings themselves are works of art that encourage mindfulness by focusing on the individual parts. Even in rural areas yantras can also be found in the most basic dwellings.

In their daily lives Indians tend to focus on aesthetics, while lesser importance is given to functionality. In dirty alleyways where the food stalls are squalid and the equipment sparse, everything is decorated tastefully. A basket of simple green vegetables is sprinkled with vibrant flower petals. Where stalls are set up on median strips, the surrounding trees are used to decoratively arrange their merchandise. Sometimes, we would see a sewing machine in the middle of a median strip between busy roads of traffic belching smoke and fumes into the smoggy sky. Despite their harsh surroundings, the people operating these sewing machines, are producing dazzling, delicately sewn garments in pleasing designs.

Symmetry can be found in the way villagers lay out their pats of cow dung to dry. Some were arranged in creative circular patterns while others were placed in lines like roof tiles. Jobs that involve dirty labouring tasks are often carried out in the Western world by men clad in functional overalls or high-visibility safety gear. Not in India. Women clad in dazzling silk saris, were throwing bricks up to a higher level on a building site for someone above to catch. Other women carried a basket of cement on their immaculately groomed heads. Women dressed in bright salwar kameez, filled bags of sand that they piled into impressive configurations resembling the layers of a pinecone.

In rural areas around Rajasthan, where the desert conditions are harsh you could see people planting young saplings around the perimeters of farms. To prevent cows eating them, they create protective circular surrounds around the young trees. Many of these consist of intricately placed bricks in a decorative pattern designed for functionality but they also have an added aesthetic appeal. Some, arranged from prickle or thorn bushes, are placed over the saplings like a fishing net. While the dwellings are simple, attention to detail reflects a dedication of time, love and patience to create an attractive, harmonious result.

These words from the Bhagavad Gita may help you in your meditation.

Still your mind in me, still yourself in me and without a doubt you shall be united with the love that dwells in your heart.

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